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published Wednesday, December 14th - 10:23pm

There is considerable controversy over the role of fighting in the NHL. There is increasing paranoia over concussions, what with the career of a superstar such as Sidney Crosby seeming to be in jeopardy.

There was also the recent New York Times series on Derek Boogaard, and the damage to his brain that might have been caused by his role as a hockey brawler. There was no other role for Boogaard, with his limited skills, so he fought and muscled his way to a job in the NHL.

He's now dead, of course, killed by an accidental overdose of painkillers last summer.

The fights are supposed to come when players jump to the defense of a shot taken at a teammate who is actually on the ice for his skill. On Wednesday night, we saw another reason for a fight:

One that had the intention of putting a spark into a game that was scoreless and largely lifeless.

Mostly, it was lifeless for the Wild, which didn't manage a shot for the game's first 14-plus minutes, and had only two (to 11 for Chicago) in the first period.

Daniel Carcillo is Chicago's disturber. He doesn't play much - seven minutes on Wednesday. He's around to stir up things, and throw some punches. Brad Staubitz (6:55 of ice time) has fallen into a similar role for the Wild.

There were 3 ½ minutes gone in the second period, when Carcillo and Staubitz squared off at mid-ice. They feigned punches for a time, then threw a few in which Staubitz had the advantage, and then the hometown tough guy threw Carcillo to the ice.

The whole thing lasted maybe 2 ½ minutes, and then Carcillo and Staubitz were sent to the penalty box for five minutes. The expectation after such altercations is for the players to stand on their side of the box and yell insults.

Aparently, that doesn't apply in a case where the fight is staged in order to put some energy in the teams and in the arena.

There's a reliable report that Carcillo, in a voice barely louder than conversational, looked across at his adversary and said: "Hey, Staubitz, did your jersey rip? I thought I had a good hold on you and came up with nothing.''

Staubitz said, "No,'' his jersey hadn't ripped, and they exchanged a few more civil comments, and then started watching the game - which became much more watchable after the fight.

The Blackhawks wound up taking a 2-0 lead in the middle of the second period, the Wild came back to tie with goals from Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cullen at 13:10 and 15:41, and then the team's best players, Jonathan Toews and Mikko Koivu, exchanged goals in the third.

The extra point went to Chicago when Toews and Patrick Kane scored in a shootout. Kane basically stopped in front of goalie Niklas Backstrom before putting home the clincher in a 4-3 victory.

The shootout remains the dumbest game-decider in sports, but the NHL likes the phony excitement it brings for casual spectators, and it likes the fact that 75 percent of the teams can claim to be over .500 by adding phony-baloney points for losing.

Even with that asinine method of breaking a tie, the Wild's return home after five games on the road turned out to be much more interesting than appeared to be case early on - thanks to Carcillo and Staubitz agreeing to a fight that picked up the evening's pace substantially.